11 April 2007

To be an author

Michael Malone is a great technology/business writer. His book ‘The Virtual Corporation’ – co-authored with William Davidow – from the early 1990s is one of the best books I’ve read on the evolution of the new organisation, fuelled by the IT revolution. What I also like about Michael Malone is his subtle sense of humour which he never fails to bring into his writing.

For instance, when his latest book ‘Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built The World’s Greatest Company’ – a story on Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the founders of HP – was recently published, this is what Michael Malone had to write about what it means to be an author, in an article ‘To Be an Author Again’ published in last week’s ABC News’ Silicon Insider column:

“I’ve written a total of seven, or 13, books. That indeterminacy is due to how one defines authorship. For example, I once hosted the public television series “A Parliament of Minds” in which I interviewed more than a dozen of the world’s leading philosophers. The two university professors who produced the series and hired me to host decided to publish the book under their own names -- and indeed not to even tell me about it, despite the fact that almost every word of it is mine or my guests. So, even though you can’t find that book under my name, I count it is as mine, dammit.

Then there is “One Digital Day,” which was one of those classic “day in the life of” coffee table photo books created by Rick Smolan and his team. It’s most assuredly his book, but since I wrote all the essays, I also count it as mine. And, of course, there are the three collaboration books – “The Virtual Corporation,” “Virtual Selling” and “Intellectual Capital” -- that I co-authored with pretty famous guys. They go on my list, but they also go on theirs -- and readers continue to assume that I was merely the dumb scribe (wrong) and they were the illiterate visionaries (also wrong).

In the end, it doesn’t much matter. When you start out in the writing business, your dream is to get out of the day-to-day newspaper and magazine writing, which you assume gives your creations a limited life-expectancy, and finally get into the world of book writing, which is really important -- and immortal.”

In this ABC News article, Michael Malone gives an interesting perspective to writing in the (fast) changing IT and Internet age. It’s quite an amusing anecdote for an oldie like me who knows what Malone is talking about, since I’ve grown up with punched card systems and 8-bit computers.

For the younger generation which has grown up on Pentium systems and iMacs, this is just a page out of the technology history book. But it still makes for interesting reading. So, take a look at Michael Malone’s article ‘To Be an Author Again’ in its entirety on ABC News here (4 pages). Plus, his experience in becoming a writer is invaluable to all budding writers.

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